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SECOND HOMES

Your questions answered: Second-home owners and French cartes de séjour

The question of the carte de séjour residency card for second-home owners in France is becoming an increasingly complicated one - particularly for Brits. We answer your question on eligibility, tax implications and how to hand the card back.

Your questions answered: Second-home owners and French cartes de séjour
Photo by JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP

The carte de séjour is the French residency card – there are, however, several different types of carte de séjour and not all of them are suitable for second-home owners.

Can second-home owners get a carte de séjour?

In certain circumstances it is possible, but there are very specific criteria that you need to fulfil. There is a card known as the carte de séjour visiteur which is specifically designed with frequent visitors to France in mind.

However, you need to have already had a visitor visa before you can apply for the card, and you need to be able to meet other criteria such as financial requirements – full details on how to get the card HERE.

Why would second-home owners want a carte de séjour?

Second-home owners want to keep their residency in another country, but spend long periods at their property in France – maybe spending the entire summer here or going to an Alpine property for the ski season.

If you’re not an EU citizen then you are constrained by the 90-day rule – which limits time spent in the Schengen zone to 90 days in every 180 – find a full explanation HERE.

For many people this is enough, but if you want to exceed 90 days you will need either a visa or the carte de séjour as outlined above.

Does a carte de séjour affect my tax status? 

If you have your main residency in another country and just enjoy visiting France, you’re likely to want to keep your tax residency in your home country. 

Tax residency is different to being ‘resident’ for immigration purposes, and you can automatically become a tax resident of a country if you spend a certain amount of time there – usually more than six months per year, although it varies from country to country.

Having a carte de séjour visiteur does not affect your tax status – because the card specifically says that you are a visitor – but repeated long stays in France could, depending on the rules of your home country.

Find more about tax residency HERE.

What about the post-Brexit carte de séjour for Brits?

If you’re British and own property in France you have likely heard people talk about the special post-Brexit carte de séjour – in English it’s called the WARP (Withdrawal Agreement Residency Permit) while the French refer to it as an Article 50 TUE carte de séjour (Article 50 referring to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement).

It is intended for Brits who were already resident in France before December 31st 2020 (ie the end of the Brexit transition period), anyone who moved to France after this date will need a visa.

This type of carte de séjour is a residency card and is only for full-time residents – second-home owners are not eligible for them.

But I’m a second-home owners and I have a post-Brexit carte de séjour?

This is not an uncommon scenario, as in the confusion around the Brexit paperwork some second-home owners were badly advised, or misunderstood the system, and ended up applying for a carte de séjour.

The French administration tried to make the process as simple as possible for Brits (in order to protect vulnerable long-term residents such as the elderly and those on low incomes) but that did mean that some people who had paperwork such as utility bills were able to get the post-Brexit carte de séjour.

Is this a problem?

Yes, we’re already seeing this causing problems for people, and it’s likely that there are more to come.

The basic issue is that the post-Brexit carte de séjour is a residency card, so by applying for it you have told the French authorities that France is your main residence. Residency means that you are no longer constrained by the 90-day rule, but it comes with responsibilities including filing the annual French tax declaration.

If you are in French records as a resident, but you don’t file the compulsory annual tax declaration you are liable to fines and penalty charges from the tax office – some people have already begun to receive warning letters.

Likewise, if you are a resident and have a UK-registered car you are obliged to change its registration to French. There is no such obligation for visitors, of course, but we have received several reports of second-home owners showing their carte de séjour at the border and then being fined for not having changed their car registration.

More problems are likely to become apparent as time goes on, especially around access to healthcare if you have an accident or fall sick while you are in France. 

What should I do?

As we said, we’re hearing a growing number of reports of second-home owners with the post-Brexit carte de séjour – some mistakenly believe that they have found ‘a loophole’ in the French system, while others received bad advice or simply misunderstood the system.

We asked the experts at the Franco-British Network what people should do if they find themselves in this situation.

FBN public relations manager Sasha Smit-Marcardier told us: “People in this situation should take professional advice, but in general the best thing to do is simply admit to having made a mistake and hand the card back.

“However, it’s important to get the process right – you need to address the request to your local préfecture, the one that granted you the card.

“You need to write a formal letter – in French – outlining that you have the card but are not eligible for it, that you made a mistake and now you wish to hand the card back.

“You should send the letter by recorded delivery mail.”

Anyone who has already encountered administrative problems such as demands from the French tax authorities is advised to seek legal advice.   

You can find more on the Franco-British Network and its work HERE.

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TRAVEL NEWS

France to use iPads to check biometic data of travellers from UK

France has revealed its plans for new border checks of passengers arriving from the UK next year - including using iPads to take biometric data like fingerprints.

France to use iPads to check biometic data of travellers from UK

France plans to use tablet computer devices to register non-EU car passengers at land and sea borders – including its border with the UK – when the new EU border system EES becomes operational next year, a new document has revealed. 

In May 2023, countries of the Schengen area will introduce the new Entry & Exit System (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens at their external borders. The EES was created to tighten up border security and will ensure the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. 

You can read full details of how the system will work HERE.

The system will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. Data collected will include the person’s name, type of travel document, fingerprints and facial images, as well as the date and place of entry and exit. The information will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that will be re-set at each entry.

The system will come into effect around the EU, but there have been major concerns about the France-UK border due to both the high volume of traffic and the Le Touquet Treaty border arrangements that mean French officials work in British ports of Dover and Folkestone – both of which saw long queues this summer as travel resumed after the pandemic. 

A document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

In the responses to the EU questionnaire, French authorities vowed they would be ready, saying simply Oui, La France sera prête (yes, France will be ready).

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

Test runs of the new system will begin at French border posts at the end of this year, they added.

However despite the vow that the new system will be ready on time to deal with thousands  of passengers each day authorities admitted “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers.”

French authorities admitted they are concerned about queues and backlogs at border crossings.

“The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continue with each border post manager to make progress on this point,” they told the EU.

This same concern was expressed by the CEO of the Port of Dover, Doug Bannister earlier this month when he told The Local he was concerned the time it takes to check each vehicle under EES could jump for around one and half minutes currently to 10 minutes.

Tablets to be used at land and sea borders

The way checks would be carried out for passengers at France’s sea borders with the UK has been a major concern especially at the Dover-Calais crossing, the busiest car route between the UK and continental Europe, with 8.6 million passengers passing through in 2019. 

Bannister, told The Local that first-time registration at Dover was the most concerning part of the new process, as it would require taking four fingerprints and facial images “at the border in front of an immigration officer”. 

Bannister said the current process was “designed around an airport” but this would not suit “a busy ferry terminal”. He demanded a system be introduced whereby registrations are carried out without passengers needing to leave the car.

French authorities’ response to the EU questionnaire has revealed they plan to use tablets, such as iPads to register car passengers’ details under EES.

The responses by French authorities to the EU questionnaire seem to clarify that agents will use tablets to register passengers directly in their cars under the “close supervision” of border guards, who will validate the biometric data on the spot. 

France will set up “‘mobile’ registration solutions (tablets) to record the biographical and biometric data of travellers eligible for the EES directly on board vehicles,” the document revealed.

People getting off buses will instead be able to use self-service kiosks similar to those set up at airports.

Airports

For non-EU visitors arriving by plane, France will set up self-service kiosks “supervised remotely via video by a border guard”.

Here, third-country nationals will be able to pre-register their biometric data and personal information, and complete the entry questionnaire. They will then be directed to the booth for verification of the data with the border guard. 

According to the document, France plans to maintain the eligibility for certain third-country nationals to go through automated ‘Parafe’ checks for subsequent entries and exits. E-gates are currently available for the citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand the United Kingdom and Singapore (as well as EU citizens).

Doubts on gradual introduction

To facilitate the process, the European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months. 

Dover had also favoured some kind of transition period to allow the port to get used to the new system. But the French appear to have rejected this idea. 

They described the option of “progressive” introduction as “not satisfactory”, because it would require other adaptations of the system. 

France has called for “flexibility” to mitigate the impact of EES in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, French authorities called for the possibility of not creating EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later. 

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” the document says.

Responding to the questions, French authorities also said they intend to seek the support of Frontex, the EU border agency, in a more general context than the the entry in operation of the EES, in view of the 2024 Olympics. 

Non-EU residents in France

EES applies only to people entering the EU as tourists or making short visits – it does not apply to non-EU nationals who live in an EU country with a residency card such as a carte de séjour or a visa.

You can read full details on the system for residents HERE.

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